By Michael DePietro
On Monday, the Wheatfield Town board announced that, although the municipality elected not to opt out of New York State Cannabis Law Section 131 – which would have flatly prevented marijuana retail sales and on-site consumption establishments from operating – due to a lack of specifics from the state. It will go forward with its own regulations regarding where and how such establishments could operate.
The town will look at ways to modify its zoning ordinance and special use permits requirements in ways that would allow such establishments to operate under town-enforced regulations.
“The state came up with this stipulation that if you're gonna opt out, do it by Dec. 31. We kind of resented that position,” Supervisor Don MacSwan said. “They came out and made this decision with no real instructions for the town. Give us details as far as distance from schools or anything like that. And so, the Town Board took the position that we're not going to opt out. However, we will regulate where and when it can be sold, until such time New York state comes in with the proper rules and regulations that they should have provided before, which they didn't. ...
“(But) we're not going to allow the sale or any distribution until such time we have a law in place or until New York state comes up with something.”
MacSwan said the town has begun consulting its engineers to develop the new ordinance, which it hopes to implement in the new year.
•Monday’s meeting opened with a public hearing on proposed revisions to Town Code Chapter 200-Zoning, regarding battery energy storage systems, specifically in relation to solar energy facilities.
Andrew Reilly, director of planning and environmental services for Wendel Engineering, was on hand to summarize some of the proposed changes and field questions. He explained the town currently does not have a better energy storage law on the books. Using NYSERDA’s draft model law as well as laws implemented by other communities, the town’s proposed law would categorize storage facilities into three tiers. The first two relate to accessory-use, i.e., backup power systems used in lieu of a generator. Tier one only requires a building permit, while tier two requires site plan approval.
Tier three systems are principal-use systems, where generated power is being sold back to the electric grid. Such is the case for utility-grade solar facilities, a topic the town, as well as much of New York state, has seen an influx of interest in. Reilly said the state is projecting 6,000 megawatts of battery energy storage system over the next five years.
He explained that, under the law, tier three systems could only be allowed in the town’s two industrial districts. However, the proposed law comes with a rather stringent caveat wherein systems are limited to a maximum of one megawatt of energy storage.
“The town looked at the size of these (facilities). … We believe one megawatt is a fairly decently sized system that can be placed throughout the town,” Reilly said. “My experience – and I've been involved in better energy storage projects for other municipalities where they've actually been constructed – you probably won't get the larger size systems anyway, because those systems are going near large power plants and other facilities like that where the infrastructure exists. You're probably going to get smaller-type up to one megawatt or maybe a slightly larger, so your system is going to regulate that, and the law sets in place all those requirements to install one of those systems. For example, the tier three system requires a 500-foot setback to the property line, or 1,000 feet if you're adjoining residential. These are large-scale systems that store energy. They look like just storage containers and they they're full of lithium-ion batteries or other types of batteries.”
The lone public comment came from Rob Hoover, a Sanborn resident, who inquired into the amount of input local fire departments will have in vetting proposed battery storage systems, noting a number of reported fires in such systems. Reilly said local fire departments will be “actively involved” in the approval for all proposed systems.
“We put in the law that all the systems have to be referred to the fire departments and safety plans put together and training of the fire department on the system,” he said. “As to getting input from them, I know the committee just used the state law, which basically sets all the parameters that is in the Fire Safety Code of New York state. … But we've gone farther and made them put a safety plan together that needs to be submitted to the fire department; needs to be approved, and then also, go out, once it's installed, to train the fire department on how to respond to fires at that location. So, we understand that is the biggest issue, and that's what was addressed in the new fire safety codes and the building code as they compartmentalize them now, hopefully to avoid larger-scale fire.”
The law requires areas within 10 feet on each side of tier 2 and 3 storage systems to be cleared of combustible vegetation. Systems and equipment are also required to be listed by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory to UL 9540.
Applicants must also submit a decommissioning plan, as well as bond fees, to be implemented upon abandonment or at the end of the storage unit’s life cycle. The plan requires the removal of all battery energy storage system components, structures, equipment, security barriers and transmission lines from the site, as well as disposal of all solid and hazardous waste in accordance with local, state and federal waste disposal regulations.
The full law can be obtained for reading at the town clerk’s office (716-694-5419).
•Elsewhere, citing an increase in costs, the town authorized an increase in water rates of 10 cents per 1,000 gallons of usage (bringing rates from $2.25 to $2.35 per 1,000 gallons of usage), as well as an increase to the town’s sewer rate of 5 cents per 1,000 gallons (a rise from $1.10 to $1.15 per 1,000 gallons) resulting in a minimum water/sewer bill being $24.50, an increase of $1.05 from the 2021 minimum bill of $23.45. Said increase would be effective for water/sewer bills as of Jan. 1, 2022.
•The Town Board of the Town of Wheatfield will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Jan. 24, 2022, at the Wheatfield Town Hall, 2800 Church Road, regarding the adoption of a proposed local law that would add additional stop signs on public streets. The text of said law is on file in the office of the town clerk, and is available for review by any interested person during business hours.
•The town’s annual reorganization meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 3, at Town Hall.